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[check mark] Reduced Portion Sizes Help Fight Obesity


[check mark] Does Coffee Increase Risk for CVD?


[check mark] AMA Looks at New Sodium Guidelines


Cut Portion Sizes to Fight Obesity, Food and Drug Administration-Funded Report Urges

A Food and Drug Administration-funded report based on a dialogue among many different public and private sector groups recommends that food-serving establishments cut portion sizes in a drive to combat America's growing obesity problem. The report, entitled "Keystone Forum on Away-From-Home Foods-Opportunities for Preventing Weight Gain and Obesity," suggests that the United States' 900,000 food-serving establishments could make a significant contribution toward fighting obesity.


Sixty-four percent of Americans are considered to be overweight, whereas 30% are obese. Fifteen percent of 6- to 9-year-olds are overweight, which is twice as many as that 20 years ago. Obesity/overweight raises the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. According to the report, healthcare expenses in the United States resulting from the consequences of obesity/overweight total $117 billion a year-the equivalent of approximately 9 million Ford Focus cars each year.


According to the report, Americans' favorite meals when eating out are burgers, fries, and pizza. The average US citizen consumes more than 30% of his or her daily energy intake away from home. In the year 2000, the average person consumed 300 calories more per day than in 1985. Since 2000, total daily energy intake has continued to increase. Forty-six percent of the average American's food budget is spent on food consumed away from home. Although the report does not blame eating establishments for being solely responsible for the growing obesity problem, it says that there is definitely a connection. In other words, the types of foods and the portion sizes in eating establishments are significant contributory factors. Various studies have shown that most people seriously underestimate how much energy fast-food restaurant meals contain.


Acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, said that the report's recommendations might help industry members, educators, researchers, and government and healthcare professionals bring down the obesity rate and its health and economic consequences.


Source: Medical News Today.


Coffee May Not Increase Risk for Coronary Heart Disease

The latest study of coffee consumption did not find any evidence that coffee consumption, in any volume, increases the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, the heaviest coffee drinkers in the study had the lowest risk. Coffee is a major source of caffeine, which is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world and has been implicated in the development of cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction in previous studies.


The new study, published online in the journal Circulation, was massive in scope-it examined 44,005 men and 84,488 women who had no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. The study was conducted over a period of more than 20 years for the women and more than 14 years for the men.


In the study, the men and women were categorized by the amount of coffee they consumed. Amazingly, the study found that the heaviest coffee drinkers, who drank 6 or more cups of coffee on a daily basis for up to 2 decades, actually had a slightly lower risk of developing coronary artery disease than did those who drank a cup or less each day.


Even more surprising is the fact that frequent or heavy coffee consumption was strongly associated with smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and using aspirin and with lower frequency of tea drinking, exercise, and use of multivitamin and vitamin E supplements. Risk for coronary heart disease was not significantly different in women who frequently drank decaffeinated coffee compared with those who did not. Total cholesterol and low-density and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in the male and female coffee drinkers did not differ in those who drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. Risk for coronary heart disease associated with drinking coffee did not differ in people with or without type 2 diabetes. Before you change your lifestyle, wait for the next study's results!


Source: Circulation. 2006;113:2045-2053.


Ethnic Differences in Teen Exercise Cut Both Ways

A study of 17,000 US adolescents finds that black and Hispanic girls are less physically active than white girls but that this difference is attributable to the schools they attend: Black, white, and Hispanic girls attending the same school have no differences in physical activity. In contrast, among boys, blacks and Hispanics were more physically active than whites attending the same schools.


The research, published in Pediatrics, showed that, on average, the black and Hispanic adolescents had a higher body mass index than did the white adolescents. Overall, adolescent girls were less physically active than boys were, reporting fewer physical activities per week, and black and Hispanic girls had less activity than did the white girls. In contrast, among boys, the number of activities per week was similar for blacks, Hispanics, and whites.


Most adolescents attended schools that, for all intents and purposes, were racially segregated: Nearly 40% of whites attended schools whose student bodies were more than 94% white, whereas approximately 80% of both blacks and Hispanics attended schools whose populations were less than 66% white. Black and Hispanic adolescents attended schools with lower median incomes (blacks, $30,000; Hispanics, $32,500; whites, $45,000).


In general, students with lower family household incomes reported less physical activity. However, after taking into account the average household income of the schools' student body, individual household income was no longer significantly associated with physical activity in either boys or girls. In the case of the boys, the authors surmise that the finding of more physical activity among blacks and Hispanics than among whites at the same school could be seen as positive and health promoting or could also reflect minority boys being differentially channeled into sports rather than academics.


In addition, differences in the schools themselves, such as inequalities in gym facilities and programs, or whether the school differences reflected the social or cultural factors in the surrounding neighborhood or community that might influence the teens' physical activity patterns may also have been involved.


Source: Pediatrics. June 2006.


Doctors Want Measures to Reduce Sodium Intake in US Diet

In an effort to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, the American Medical Association passed new policies to help change the way Americans think about salt, with the goal of reducing sodium intake throughout America.


Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of Americans. Excess sodium greatly increases the chance of developing hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Research shows that most Americans consume 2 to 3 times the amount of sodium that is healthy, with an estimated 75% to 80% of the daily intake of sodium coming from processed and restaurant foods.


The American Medical Association's new recommendations include:


* urging the Food and Drug Administration to revoke the "generally recognized as safe" status of salt and to develop regulatory measures to limit sodium in processed and restaurant foods;


* calling for a minimum of 50% reduction in the amount of sodium in processed foods, fast-food products, and restaurant meals to be achieved over the next decade;


* working with appropriate partners to educate consumers about the benefits of long-term, moderate reductions in sodium intake; and


* discussing with the Food and Drug Administration ways to improve labeling to assist consumers in understanding the amount of sodium contained in processed food products and to develop label markings and warnings for foods high in sodium.



The American Medical Association is confident that the implementation of these recommendations will reduce sodium intake, result in a better-educated consumer, and eventually lower the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in this country.


Source: American Medical Association.


Food Security Priority at World Food Summit but Still Unmet

At the World Food Summit in November 1996, 186 countries committed themselves to reducing the number of undernourished people by half by 2015. Donors pledged to provide support, particularly in the area of technological transfers. The commitment to providing food aid was also reinforced. In 2002, the 186 countries reaffirmed their commitment. Today, 10 years after the 1996 summit, there is growing concern regarding the progress toward meeting the goal.


In 2005, 777 million people were food insecure in the 70 lower income countries studied in this report. On average, there has been a slight decline in the number of hungry people from 688 million in 1992-1994 to 639 million in 2002-2004. Both Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States experienced a 30% drop in the number of hungry people. The number of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has varied slightly over time, but there has been no discernible trend across the region as a whole. Despite strong growth in food production, Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of hungry people has increased-more than 19%-during the last decade.


Among the 70 countries included in this report, there are 3 success stories: Ghana, Peru, and Vietnam. All 3 countries introduced major reforms in the late 1980s or 1990s. These reforms were based on a stronger reliance on market forces, which fostered economic stability. The agricultural sectors, in particular, benefited from improvements in access to credit and government support of research and extension services.


Source: US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2006.